Permanency, Perception, and Identity

Posted on May 20, 2013 by


I am struck by how people you identify with are “always works in progress” with unlimited potential, but how people you don’t know, you see as finished products, sometimes just straight up “dicks/assholes.”

People you identify with have temporary statuses, especially if they are in a rough position.  They can deflect any and all criticism.

On the other hand, people you don’t identify with/don’t know have permanent statuses.  They deserve any and all the criticism they incur.

One case example of this phenomena in my one online community.

So there is one poster on the RealGM Chicago Bulls board whose opinions I’ve come to respect over time.

I think in real life he’s probably smart, and funny and I might get along with him in real life.

But on the message board, we all adapt ‘identities,’ which may be either completely different or similar to our real-life identities.

I’ll call it ‘arguing identities,’ where were pre-disposed to argue one way on an issue, or another.  Having been in this particular online community a while, having a vague recollection of a few their race/ethnicities/jobs, it feels like I can predict how posters are going to argue.

For example, there is now a topic about ex-coach Scott Skiles becoming head coach of another team, the Brooklyn Nets, a team the Bulls recently dismantled en route to their own recent second round demise.

As I read through the topic, it occurred to me that those posters who defend Skiles as a coaching candidate, sort of are the same people as those defending players such as Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng. Each of these players, in some fans opinions exhibit a type of ‘structure’, an inherent ‘discipline’ in them which can be associated with ‘leadership qualities’ ‘heart’, ‘selflessness’ and by implication a heightened ‘morality.’  Because they embody those characteristics, posters who tend to be white usually defend these players against criticism.

Scott Skiles, a balding white man with a reputation for coaching hard-nosed defense, and eventually “wearing out his teams” represents a coach who leads his teams with that ‘structure’, this inherent discipline.  Incidentally, he coached both Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng, and they were two of his top stars.  The control, the structure, the discipline embodied in the avatar of a Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, and controlled by a Scott Skiles is a running antithesis of “today’s NBA,” whose players not within that mold are usually characterized by the same posters as “wild, undisciplined, lacking intelligence.”  They also represent a type of underdog.

Scott Skiles’ brand of “discipline” implies a sort of ‘old school’ leadership loosely connected with the yelling, no-nonsense coaches who’ve been the image of success in professional team sports. Old school leadership in sports is largely thought to be by default, led by a white man.  And that always goes without mentioning.

I feel that I could predict that posters who claim to be white or identify with that default-ness would rush to Skiles’ defense.  Sure enough, the poster went ahead and defended him.

Skiles is an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, wrapped in a brown suit from Sears. I was a huge fan of his in Chicago – until I started a mega thread calling for his termination – only to praise the Bucks for hiring him.

I hope he gets this job so that we can finally figure out who this guy is. As you say, he’s had young underdog teams when he’s been successful. The thinking is because of his abbrassiveness, he can’t coach a veteran team with talent. Brooklyn’s a reasonably talented veteran team with a strong willed franchise player. I’d like to see if Skiles could make it work.

In 3 jobs with a record barely over .500, the poster is willing to give Skiles another chance to “see if Skiles could make it work.”

It’s quite the contrast to how the same poster has talked about coaches such as Mike Brown, Avery Johnson, and Mike D’Antoni.  The first two are black, also known as defensive coaches.  The third coach is an Italian-American coach known for offense.  When Mike Brown was fired from the Lakers earlier this basketball season, he had this to say.

Normally I would agree about prematurity. But they never should have hired him in the first place. He blows.

Wiretap mentions that Lakers have considered D’Antoni as a possible replacement. That would be hilarious. Maybe they could hire him, fire him at the Allstar break, and then hire Avery Johnson for the remainder of the season, thereby executing the hat trick of hiring the “Why the hell do these guys have good coaching reputations?” coaches in one season.

Nope, no chance to either of them.  There is no wait and see with D’Antoni, who is now in his 3rd NBA coaching job.  No wait and see for Mike Brown.  No wait and see for Avery Johnson, despite each of them having a better cumulative record than Skiles.

Granted, all of them have had more talented teams than Skiles and all of them have been in more high-profile positions, but looking at just their coaching record numbers, if you’re giving one guy with a marginal track record the benefit of the doubt, why isn’t it extended to others who have a better one?

This question makes me think of the thinking embedded in the minds of people who make hiring/firing decisions and other domains of life.